Republican Liberty and the Pindaric Genealogy of Modern Abstractions

in Contributions to the History of Concepts

Pindaric odes written around the time of the French Revolution have a penchant for abstractions. Apostrophized Liberty, Fortune, Virtue, and Joy, which replaced the monarch as the ode’s addressee, attest to the numinous prehistory of distinctively modern concepts that Reinhart Koselleck termed “collective singulars.” In particular, eighteenth-century Pindarics put forward representations of Liberty prevailing over an unenlightened past, which conform to the schema of victorious encounter established in Pindar’s epinician odes. The article dwells closely on two ostensibly pro-revolutionary and highly influential texts in the Pindaric mold, Alexander Radishchev’s Liberty and Friedrich Schiller’s To Joy, which share a concept of freedom that diverges from both the republican and the liberal interpretations.

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